The late-60s/early-70s cycle of existential road movies yielded a number of interesting films, but perhaps the most overlooked is Monte Hellman’s minimalist masterpiece, Two-Lane Blacktop. “The Driver” and “The Mechanic” have simplified their lives to exist almost solely as extensions of the ‘55 Chevy they race from town to town.
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The Leningrad Cowboys – a Slavic folk band tagged as “the worst rock ‘n’ roll band in the world” – travel to America in search of success. That’s about as far as plot goes in Leningrad Cowboys Go America, an absurdest comedy that satirizes Americana, the immigrant experience, and the Soviet political system.
When a one-night stands nibbles at Peter’s neck, he convinces himself he’s turning into a vampire. Is he really? Not quite a psychological thriller and not quite a black comedy, Vampire’s Kiss mines queasy laughs from a narrative that could be considered tragic…plus, Nicholas Cage eats a real cockroach.
James Cagney plays C.R. MacNamara, whose long-desired promotion depends on one thing: keeping an eye on the boss’ daughter as she vacations in Berlin. Billy Wilder’s famously sharp-tongued dialogue has never been as fast or as funny as in One, Two, Three, a raucous farce of Cold War capitalism.
In Hard Eight, Philip Baker Hall delivers a multi-layered performance as Sydney, an aging professional gambler who takes down-on-his-luck loser John (John C. Reilly) under his wing. John’s involvement with an equally wounded waitress (Gwyneth Paltrow) and a shady casino worker (Samuel L. Jackson) introduces a noir element into this compelling character study of a film.
John of Fiction/AV/Teen Services recommends Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste by Carl Wilson:
Celine Dion’s music has millions of fans worldwide – so why do music critics hate it? One of those critics, Carl Wilson, set out to explore this disdain by examining Dion’s work from practically every imaginable musical and socio-cultural angle. What eventually emerges is a treatise on the very notion of “good taste,” delving into the ways in which we assign value to art can often be shaped by our unconscious prejudices. Let’s Talk About Love is likely to make you reexamine your own ideas about good and bad music.
For more than twenty years, Jim Woodring’s elegantly wordless “Frank” comics have immersed readers in a dreamlike, richly allegorical milieu which is equal parts unsettling and whimsical. 2010’s Weathercraft is Woodring’s first long-form work and possibly his best-realized. It follows one character’s ascension from total debasement into a kind of unexpected nobility.
Running from 1978 to 1980 on British TV, The Sandbaggers was essentially the antithesis of the James Bond movies. It replaced exotic locations and outlandish action sequences with a John le Carre-flavored down-to-earth emphasis on the political and emotional cost of espionage work, and was never less than totally absorbing.
Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever was Yorkshire garage-pop trio The Cribs’ major-label debut. For once a shot at a wider audience made for the perfection of the sound (in this case, anthemic hooks married to witty lyrics and fluid, twitchy guitar), rather than its watering down—proving there’s life still left in the Strokes/Maximo Park school.
Paranoia Agent was the late anime master Satoshi Kon’s sole foray into television; this enigmatic, visually arresting and borderline Lynchian series follows a disparate group of Tokyo residents whose lives are impacted by a string of mysterious assaults.